Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

"So you want attention, eh?"

04.04.2008 (6:31 pm) – Filed under: Child Care,Crime,Media ::

Kids these days – it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.  Turns out the 11-year-old boy who reported an abduction attempt in Houston earlier this week was making it all up.

"He admitted that he had been missing his mother who was at work a lot and and made up the story to get attention," [Houston Police Department spokesman John] Cannon said.

Here’s hoping little Johnny gets "the attention" he needs.

So does that mean that the Houston Chronicle was right to issue only a vague description of the reported kidnapper.  I’m sure there are some editors there who are, if not high-fiving it around the office, congratulating themselves on having played it cool.

If so, they’re wrong to think they served the public trust, just are they were wrong to release a useless description of the suspect in the aftermath of the report.

The only thing this incident demonstrates is that children are often unreliable witnesses, something that only makes believing other children’s real problems harder.

Abortion Bills Stall in Congress

04.04.2008 (5:25 pm) – Filed under: Abortion,Child Care,Education,Parenting ::

Samantha Torrence says:  "One of the major societal epidemics in America today is the lack of respect for not only the sanctity of life, but a lack of love for our own children."  No surprise that this comes during an epidemic of self-indulgent, irresponsible behavior.  Suffering the consequences for one’s actions, it seems, is no fun.  So why bother?

The purpose of Torrence’s post is to promote this bill put forth by Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and his co-sponsors and similar legislation.  Ryan’s bill, which has yet to have a vote, would:

    (1) reduce the abortion rate by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and supporting women facing unplanned pregnancies;

    (2) prevent unintended pregnancies from occurring in the first place–

      (A) by reducing teen pregnancy through education, after-school and other programs, and involving parents; and

      (B) by extending Medicaid family planning services to more low-income women; and

    (3) support pregnant women, new parents, and their children, through measures that address domestic violence and sexual assault, provide health care services, information about pregnancy, and other supportive services for pregnant women, and provide supportive services for new parents.

Certainly these are worthy goals, as well as being a fiscally-sound investment:  The bill specifically states:  "By helping couples avoid unintended pregnancy, Medicaid-funded and Title X contraceptive services are highly cost-effective, and every public dollar spent on family planning saves $3 in the cost of pregnancy-related care alone."  It’s a logical argument and would make for sound policy, I think.

But I still can’t help but wonder about the fundamental reason why poor women – 73% of women having abortions cited financial fears as a contributing factor – allow themselves to become pregnant.  Yes, mistakes get made.  But so many?  If I’m too poor to have a child, I’m certainly too poor to have unprotected sex.

It’s a fallacy to think that education is the problem.  The Ryan bill states that 49% of all pregnancies are unintended.  Are we to believe that this is because of ignorance?  Obviously not.  Virtually every person living in America who is over 10 years of age knows how babies are made.  Access to cheap birth control might reduce pregnancies, but I doubt it for one simple reason:  Birth control is not expensive, even at market rates.

Another strike against sex education as the core of an unwanted pregnancy reduction strategy is that "only" 20% of abortions are performed on teenaged girls, which means that 80% of abortions are performed on women who fully understand the facts of life.

That’s why I don’t think that Sex Ed is that meaningful in terms of solving the problem.  Feel free to shoot me down.

Even so, I believe that schools ought to offer Sex Ed programs.  Every little bit helps.  Adults have the information and there’s only one valid reason for us not to share it with our youth:  parental objections.  So let people opt out of the classes and start holding them, by all means.  Just don’t plan on distributing birth control through schools – that’s a bit much.

Torrence goes on to link unwanted pregnancies to child abuse and infant homicide, two very probably follow-ons to a mother carrying to term a child who isn’t wanted :

There must be something we are missing here as a society, obviously there has been much progress in the concerns over unplanned pregnancies with minor setbacks. … Why are 14 year olds killing their children or clueless to being pregnant, for that matter why are they sexually active? … Why are Americans killing viable fetuses and then are surprised when someone kills a newborn?

There are a lot of things that we could blame our dysfunction on – Vietnam, hippies, drugs, Bill Clinton, CNN, etc.  But it really all boils down to a fundamental reduction in the amount of character people in this country have, compared to previous generations. 

George H.W. Bush tried to campaign on this issue in 1992 against Bill Clinton.  As a young man I remember hearing his speech when he called for more "personal responsibility" on the part of every American.  I laughed.  Who could possibly think that was a viable campaign issue?  Turns out that he was right.  Like a good portion of Americans, I just wasn’t mature enough to understand what he was talking about.  The Clinton presidency was our reward for shallow thinking.

Many women who face an unwanted pregnancy do so because their so-called "man" fails to live up to his obligations.  That’s a character issue that transcends race and age boundaries.  Children who grow up without a father often do so for the same reason – lack of character on the part of their sire.  In other cases both parents are utter failures and doom their children to repeating a life like their own.

No government program or well-intentioned bill will change that until individual men – and some women too – decide that children, who should be the pride and joy of every parent and are the hope of this nation, matter enough that they will sacrifice some of their time, money, and even happiness now so that their son or daughter can grow up in decent environment.

It’s hard being a parent.  Sometimes it is a job that’s miserable beyond words.  But a man who abandons his child is no man at all, regardless of how cool his ride is, how much he can bench, or how many notches he’s got on his bedpost.

Too many boys in America don’t know this.  They don’t have a clue how to be a man.  So show them.  Meet your obligations to these boys, whether they’re your sons, nephews, grandsons, or neighborhood strays. 

Love them.  Keep your promises.  If you don’t know how to do that, start here.  Be a man.  Jesus would.  There’s no reason why we can’t.

Support Geert Wilders’ Right to Speak

01.04.2008 (9:44 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech ::

The Jawa Report is linking to a petition aiming to organize a boycott of Dutch goods and services if Wilders is punished or prosecuted over the Fitna affair.

Like Wilders’ film or not, it’s a no-brainer that making the video and distributing it are well within the realm of free, protected speech.  For that much Wilders deserves to be supported in his struggle against the Dutch government that would muzzle him if it could.

As for some of his other statements, I’d remind you that the right to speak is more important than liking what you hear.

Zeifman: Hillary Unethical, Dishonest

01.04.2008 (9:34 pm) – Filed under: Politics ::

Although I’ve thus far preferred her to Barack Obama, Hillary’s Clinton’s bald-faced lie about facing sniper fire in Bosnia was very early the last straw for me.  Now Ed Morrissey writes about an even more disturbing episode at the beginning of her career.  If true, this Watergate-era scandal should put an end to Hillary’s political career.

Dan Calabrese’s new column on Hillary Clinton’s past may bring the curtain down on her political future. Calabrese interviewed Jerry Zeifman, the man who served as chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings, has tried to tell the story of his former staffer’s behavior during those proceedings for years. Zeifman claims he fired Hillary for unethical behavior and that she conspired to deny Richard Nixon counsel during the hearings

Why?

“Because she was a liar,” Zeifman said in an interview last week. “She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

Writing about Hillary’s faux tears before the New Hampshire primary, Zeifman also said:

My own reaction was of regret that,  when I terminated her employment on the Nixon
impeachment staff, I had not reported her unethical practices to the appropriate bar
associations.

Wow.  Damning words, if I’ve ever heard them. 

I can’t say as I’ve ever heard of Jerry Zeifman, which makes me wonder exactly how hard he tried to tell his story during the 30+ years that have passed since the alleged incident occurred.  Surely Rush Limbaugh, et al, would have picked at this story like buzzards swarming over still-twitching road kill during the last few torturous years of the first Clinton presidency.

Here’s a lengthy but interesting excerpt from Zeifman’s February article for Accuracy in Media:

Only a few far-left Democrats supported Hillary’s recommendations. A majority of the committee agreed to allow President Nixon to be represented by counsel and to hold hearings with live witnesses. Hillary then advocated that the official rules of the House be amended to deny members of the committee the right to question witnesses. This recommendation was voted down by the full House. The committee also rejected her proposal that we leave the drafting of the articles of impeachment to her and her fellow impeachment-inquiry staffers.

It was not until two months after Nixon’s resignation that I first learned of still another questionable role of Hillary. On Sept. 26, 1974, Rep. Charles Wiggins, a Republican member of the committee, wrote to ask Chairman Rodino to look into "a troubling set of events." That spring, Wiggins and other committee members had asked "that research should be undertaken so as to furnish a standard against which to test the alleged abusive conduct of Richard Nixon." And, while "no such staff study was made available to the members at any time for their use," Wiggins had just learned that such a study had been conducted-at committee expense-by a team of professors who completed and filed their reports with the impeachment-inquiry staff well in advance of our public hearings.                                                                                   

The report was kept secret from members of Congress. But after the impeachment-inquiry staff was disbanded, it was published commercially and sold in book stores. Wiggins wrote: "I am especially troubled by the possibility that information deemed essential by some of the members in their discharge of their responsibilities may have been intentionally suppressed by the staff during the course our investigation." He was also concerned that staff members may have unlawfully received royalties from the book’s publisher.                 

I still believe that Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Barack Obama if not for the baggage of her marriage to Bill Clinton and her own questionable past.  However, both of these are huge negatives that have become increasingly hard to overlook, even in a person who is merely a fallback candidate for the presidency.

It’s ironic that Hillary’s bid for the White House would be tripped up because of her lies and manipulations during an election in which all she had to do in order to waltz triumphantly back into the Oval Office was to step up to the microphone and play it straight with the American people.  But the Clintons outsmarted themselves by playing politics, triangulating public opinion, and constantly re-inventing Hillary, seemingly after every new poll.  That mistake has probably cost Hillary the dream of her lifetime, the further irony of which is that she doesn’t seem to have deserved it anyway.

Dangers of Politically Correct Reporting

01.04.2008 (1:18 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Media,Political Correctness,Race ::

My favorite writer at The Moderate Voice is Polimom and it’s good to see that she’s back and blogging again!  Today she writes that the Houston Chronicle’s policy of using "racial or ethnic identification only when it is clearly pertinent" went too far by failing to include important information about the at-large suspect:

On the north side of Houston yesterday, an 11-year-old boy was almost snatched. After being approached, slapped, and thrown to the ground, he somehow managed to escape and run home.

Scary stuff.

Luckily, the boy was able to give a description of both his attacker and his vehicle, and Houston police are trying to find the very dangerous would-be abductor.

Here’s the online description from the local ABC affiliate:

The suspect is described as an African American male wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans. The student said the man who attacked him is 5′11″ to 6′ feet tall, between 35 and 40 years old, weighs 160 to 175 pounds and has black hair. The student said he saw the man driving a black four-door Cadillac from the model years 1991 to 1995.

And here (as of this posting at 11:50 am) is the description fromthe Houston Chronicle:

The alleged abductor is described as 5 feet 11 inches to about 6 feet tall. He is between 35 and 40 years old and weights 160 to 175 pounds. He has black hair. The student told police he saw the man driving a black four-door Cadillac from the model years 1991 to 1995.

Obviously, the Chronicle’s version is missing a couple of potentially helpful identifying items: specifically, his clothes and his ethnicity.

Does anybody but me see a problem here?

Sure do.  The Chronicle has – justifiably – come under some criticism for this policy in the past and even addressed the issue in its own About blog.  Steve Jetton writes:

Race matters to some readers, particularly when the Chronicle doesn’t report the race of a crime suspect. A couple of e-mails I received from readers best illustrate the consternation (and I’m being kind) that some readers feel when we don’t report the race of a suspect.

I find it interesting that an article about a murder where police are seeking information from the public, gives detailed descriptions of the alleged perpetrators except for their race. This simple, yet critical, piece of information is withheld even though the article states that their images were captured by the surveillance camera. If this is Chronicle policy, it is to the detriment of public safety.

The Chronicle’s stylebook guidelines are sensible and straightforward:

Use a racial or ethnic identification only when it is clearly pertinent. If you would not normally identify a person as being white in a story, do not use racial identity. For example, if you would not write: "Dan Rather, the white anchor of the CBS Nightly News," then do not write, "Connie Chung, noted Asian-American newscaster …"

Race should not be used in a police description that is too skimpy to identify a suspect, such as "a black man in his 20s." But a complete description (several elements, such as height, weight and personal characteristics) should always include race.

Jetton and the Chroncle both go too far, as in the insipid example he gave above, something that’s exemplified in Polimon’s post.  Why was the highly pertinent information about the suspect’s coloring not released?  There can be only one reason:  to avoid the possibility of the Chronicle being tarred with the "racist" tag.

Jetton again:

I understand that some readers like to keep score, particularly on matters of race. But when it comes to crime reporting providing readers with a detailed description of a suspect – identifying marks, hair color, clothes, etc. – is far more useful toward nabbing the bad guy than race alone. That’s hardly "PC."

Au contraire.  For most people the information is not about keeping score but rather a subconscious tabulation or, dare I say it, profiling of their own personal threat index.  Some will argue that this is unacceptable, that people have no right to evaluate the facts of a criminal case and make up their own mind about how it impacts them.  This is, of course, not true.

Others will argue, quite stridently, most of the time, that the Chronicle and other news agencies have the responsibility to present a race-neutral view of the world that is offensive to no one.  This is also a falsehood that, when it is obeyed, fundamentally shakes the foundation of trust that the news media is based on.

Facts are the business of newspapers.  Opinions and biases, whether right or wrong, positive or negative, should be identified as such and preferably left to the editorial pages.  The facts of criminal cases are that a man or woman of a given appearance committed the act.  The fact of the criminal’s race may not be known but it is always relevant, even if it’s only to the media’s consumers.

Race-based advocacy groups are often behind the neutering of media agencies.  But they would be well-advised to ask themselves what the problem they are trying to solve is. 

Is it important that X% of crimes reported by the media are committed by the group they claim to represent?  Or is it important that they feel that the media is reporting that too many of their people are committing crimes?

Whether consciously or not, these groups have landed hard on the answer to the latter question as their proving ground.  But a more productive approach would be to admit that their group’s actions are disproportionally criminal and actively seek to reduce the number and violence level of those crimes.

As for the Chronicle, I hope that this case forces the editorial board to reconsider their ill-advised policy.  Report the facts and let the people decide what is important.  That’s Journalism 101.  Or it ought to be.